“Gentleman farmer” shows off his East Bethel menagerie
Scott Hynek, a retired mechanical engineer who is now a gentleman farmer, can be found in his barnyard most any time of the day tending to his animals.
Some are strictly pets, but most are fated to end up on the dining room table.
“I have conversations with most of the animals,” said Hynek. “I tell them they can have a very long career as mothers or they can have a very short career and end up on my plate for dinner.”
Six years ago most of the area Hynek uses as his farm and garden area was nothing but a gravel pit. But now you would never know it, as trees have grown up and lots of work has been done to create a base soil for the gardens with mulch hay.
“We use whatever we can get our hands on to create a better growing area, more space for the animals or to come up with a better idea than what we already have,” said Hynek.
There are not many materials Hynek will refuse or not find a use for: the old snack shack roof at Telstar is the roof to his outdoor processing center; old road signs lead a new life as doors for turkey pens; old street sweeps stood on end provide a good scratch for the goats; and shredded documents from local offices are spread out as bedding for the sheep and goats.
The pig made a new home for herself in the woods with her very own truck-cap cave in the side of a hill.
She thought I might be her new playmate, as she sniffed my ankles and scratched her side on my legs. An electric fence keeps her from getting out and anything else from getting in.
“I just moved her over there,” said Hynek. “Pigs are great excavators. When we were trying to clear the area for the pasture, we put the pig out here and just kept pulling out the trash that was dug up. It worked well.”
An introduction to Daisy the sheep and Maggie and Paulette, the goats, was a special treat because they want to be petted and are genuinely interested in people.
Hynek explained that Daisy was given to him by an elderly lady who “homeschooled” her. She was walked during the day on a leash. She was even read to by the lady and was treated as a pet.
“When I was asked to take Daisy, I had to promise not to eat her for a year. Well, it’s been longer than that and I just can’t bring myself to kill her,” said Hynek.
He said he has been trying to convince his neighbors that she would make a good pasture mate for their cows, “but they’re not having anything to do with it.”
Hynek remembered the first days Daisy came to the pasture. “The goats wanted nothing to do with her. They were mean and kept butting her. I felt bad. Not only was she just shaved, but then she moves in here. Can you imagine if your parents did that to you? It was a regular schoolyard bully session.”
Gabby, the barking next door neighbor, enjoys coming over and “playing” with the turkeys.
“She’s only ever gotten one,” said Hynek. “Otherwise, she’s pretty good.”
With multiple breeds of chickens running around, ducks lounging in the kiddie pool, turkeys in their pen, and rabbits in a mating pen, there are plenty of farm smells.
The rabbits include one buck and six does. Two does already have little puffball babes in their nests and another is ready to nest any day.
“We have to be careful not to make this momma-to-be nervous,” said Hynek. “If she gets nervous this close to having her little ones, she could eat her young.”
He gently cleans the trough below their cages; we talk in low voices and are careful not to disturb the rabbits. I ask him how he can eat them when they’re just so cute. Hynek laughed. “Yes, they’re really cute when they’re little balls of hair, but if you have ever had to move them from one cage to another to separate the males and females - they will tear you to shreds. Then, they are not so cute.”
Next are the emu and goose pens. The emu, originating in Australia, stands about six feet tall or more with long necks, beady eyes and scaled three-toed feet.
Inside the shed, separated from the birds by a double-lined fencing, it’s pretty safe, although Hynek warns not to put fingers in the pen.
But then we go out to the back stoop which follows the pen down through some pucker brush.
At this point, the emus – four of them - are curious and come over to check out the visitor. Now they stand over me and it’s a little disconcerting, especially when I have a much better view of those feet that can literally tear an enemy to shreds.
Hynek said emu fecal material is very valuable when it’s fresh and he has quite a market for it.
Emu meat is all brown meat, unlike a chicken or turkey, due to the lack of a breast bone. They eat plenty of bugs, the frogs from the pond in their pen, and lots of green leafy vegetables.
Hynek cautions never to back an emu into a corner because they’re very territorial and defensive birds. “They won’t even go into the trees in their pen,” said Hynek. “They’re a little paranoid and need to see around them at all times.”
Hynek has learned that even though they are not in Australia the emus still lay their eggs and sit on them from October to February.
“I’d like to have successful hatching, but I just don’t see how it’s going to happen,” he said.
The male emu goes into a coma-like trance for 50 days while he sits on the one-and-one-quarter-pound egg (about double the size of a goose egg). He doesn’t eat or drink for the entire time. Hynek said that he can walk right up to the bird during that time and it doesn’t bother him at all.
Hynek travels to Massachusetts to purchase the emu eggs and then incubates them. An emu chick sells for approximately $75.
Moving from the barnyard to the garden and greenhouse area, Hynek is excited to show off his composting area.
The compost house consists of three bays where the material is dumped in, watered down and turned. On the opposite side are large doors that can be opened where a truck can back in and easily load fresh compost.
The post-and-beam greenhouse sits adjacent to the compost house, where all of the water controls are housed and beautiful squash plants climb the homemade netting. “We have some pretty intricate controls for the water in here,” said Hynek.
The garden, which is planted in part of the old gravel pit, was thriving. Hynek uses mulch hay and takes whatever he can get. He simply unrolls the hay in lines where he wants to create a base for the garden and the decomposition helps it along.
He has raspberry and blueberry bushes, peach and apple trees, and asparagus and horseradish runners throughout the space.
“I’ve given all ratings of tours here,” said Hynek. “A friend of mine said that to me one time: “‘You never know what rating of tour you’re gonna get out here. One day it may be simply a G, but other days I’ve seen the envelope pushed to PG-13 and even X.’”